2011-07-15 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

The Hub Of Far Rockaway’s Shopping Center - Central Avenue - In 1909
From The Rockaway Museum Commentary by Emil Lucev, Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

Central Avenue in Far Rockaway began as a short stretch of roadway between Brookhaven and Plainview Avenues, and was shown on the Wahling’s map of 1859. The short road was named Catherine Street, after Catherine Finucan, wife of “Pop” Finucan, who owned much land in the immediate area, and ran the Mansion House Hotel on Cornaga Avenue (where an elongated Catherine would cross later on). When the Marine Pavilion Hotel burned to the ground in 1864, Catherine Street was extended down to the beachfront.

Five years later the southside railroad came to Far Rockaway and Catherine street was extended north, past Cornaga Avenue, and stopped at Mott’s Lane (Mott Avenue) just to the east of the railroad’s station. Mott’s Lane terminated at Cornaga Avenue, and was continued towards the beach in 1873.

On the map of 1873, Central Avenue came towards Far Rockaway thru the Five Towns area and turned south, (in what is today Beach 9 Street), ran down to the intersection of Cornaga and Broadway, and continued to the beach (again in what became 9 Street).

A big change came in 1879 when Central Avenue was extended southwest from the south turn (at Beach 9 Street) and connected to Mott’s Lane on the east side of the Far Rockaway station.

At this time, W.T. Bailey, who was now developing Bayswater, paid for the surfacing of the new Central Avenue, from Mott Avenue to the beach, out of his pocket. Crushed shells from the piles of same on his property and loam were used.

From that year on the village of Far Rockaway grew by leaps and bounds, with Central Avenue as the “hub” of the shopping district, so to speak!

By 1886 a horse car trolley line ran to the beach down Central Avenue, and it was replaced by electric trolleys in 1898. The latter was abandoned in early to mid-1920’s (off and on at times) and Central Avenue was paved with asphalt in 1932.

During World War II, the trolley tracks were salvaged for the war effort, but the RR ties were left in the ground. Years later, with the heavy delivery trucks and buses and fuel trucks, the paving, aided by drought and summer heat waves, caused the road surface to settle between the RR ties. A washboard effect was created, and frequent complaints caused repairs to be made to the shock absorber testing portion of Central Avenue.

When street names were changed to numerals in 1920, Central Avenue from Mott Avenue to Seagirt Boulevard officially became Beach 20 Street.

Over the years, Historical Views has published many photographs and names of many stores, business and buildings that were on Central Avenue, and that list is endless.

The view today is from a 1909 postcard, and shows Central Avenue toward Cornaga Avenue. The trolley was the only vehicle that could go both ways, causing “rush hour” problems, traffic tie-ups, accidents with horse drawn carriages and autos, and a few lame horses.

Now! Folks! Test your memory as a student of historical views-101….

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